Reenactors from around the country are participating in a unique, multi-layered, multi-location event in Trenton and Princeton January 7 and 8. The programs breathe life into the historic events that took place between Trenton and Princeton, New Jersey, in early January 1777 – 240 years ago.
On Saturday January 7, reenactors in Trenton’s Old Barracks interpret the daily lives of Continental soldiers and civilians during the Ten Crucial Days Campaign, while reenactors at Morven Museum and Palmer Square in Princeton recreate the British Army's occupation of New Jersey through a series of dramatic vignettes. That evening, British Army Historian William P. Tatum III, Ph.D., will explain the background story of the Princeton Battle Monument on Stockton Street, just north of Morven, with a blow-by-blow account of those portions of the battle that took place within walking distance of the monument.
Many of the event participants are professional historians, or work in related fields. “240 years ago, central New Jersey was ravaged by war,” stated Matt White, one of the event organizers. “The line between combatant and non-combatants blurred as British and American soldiers pilfered and committed sometimes unspeakable crimes against the civilian population. New Jersey had a refugee crisis. What we read about happening in Syria or elsewhere happened here. It can happen here, because it already did. Living history events like this give us a chance to put the events of the past into perspective in ways that just reading about it doesn’t.”
On Sunday January 8, the events come together when reenactors arrive at Princeton Battlefield after marching all night to participate in the real-time tour of the Battle of Princeton, led by Dr. William P. Tatum, III. Following the tour, participants are encouraged to visit with members of the recreated H.M. 17th Regiment of Foot and Peale’s Philadelphia Associators. Be sure to step into the Clarke House, a Quaker dwelling that was pressed into service as a hospital for casualties from both sides, and speak with interpreters who will discuss the battle’s aftermath and how a war that they abhorred affected the local Quaker population.
In the early morning hours of January 3, 1777, following the 2nd Battle of Trenton, the Continental Army including artist Charles Willson Peale’s company of Philadelphia Associators marched overnight over freezing, rutted roads to attack the British Army in Princeton. The ensuing battle there ended the British occupation of Princeton and Trenton forever and rejuvenated the American cause.
SATURDAY, JAN. 7:
The Ravages of Princeton. See the British troops occupy the Princeton and call citizens to swear "allegiance to the Crown." 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Morven Museum and Palmer Square, Princeton. Full schedule: pbs1777.org.
Luminaries at the Princeton Battle Monument, with historian William P. Tatum III, Ph.D, 6pm. pbs1777.org.
To Princeton with Peale! Visit with members of Charles Willson Peale's company, the Philadelphia Associators, as they prepare for their all-night to march to Princeton to face the British. Soldiers drill on the parade ground throughout the day, cook in the earthen camp kitchen on the grounds, and prepare their equipment in the different barracks rooms, ready to talk to visitors.10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Old Barracks Museum, 101 Barracks St. Admission: $8 adults, $6 students and seniors. barracks.org.
SUNDAY, JAN. 8: Battle of Princeton & Clarke House - A real-time historical tour of the Battle of Princeton showing exactly where, when and why events unfolded that chilly morning in 1777. 6:30 a.m. Programming continues after the tour until 1pm. Princeton Battlefield State Park/Clarke House, 500 Mercer St., Princeton. pbs1777.org.